Shaherzad (Iran) / c. 1955

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Design: A bold and attractive design, following a basic half-segment division between label name and imprinting. The bearded sultan, wearing his tall fez (a decorated, cone-shaped hat), baggy pants and curving-toed slippers, is relaxing in his luxurious, curtained tent while being entertained by the seductive Shaherzad (her shapely bare midriff no doubt helped to hold the sultan's attention), who is likewise reclining on well-stuffed cushions. The crescent moon and stars of the night sky in the background imply Islamic symbolism, as does the decorative border below, showing the silhouetted domes of mosques and minarets among palm trees. The label name lettering, in the Latin alphabet, widens as it radiates outward in compensating for the optical illusion of narrowing, but also serves to focus attention on the illustration. The three-colour brown, yellow and black combination effectively suggest the intense darkness of night (above) over a sandy desert (below).

History: The label name and the illustration refer to a classic story of fiction in Persian literature, in which Shaherzad (westernized as Scheherazade) was a sultan's wife who narrated the Thousand and One Nights. According to the story, the Sultan Shahryar found his first wife unfaithful, and, after deciding that he hated all women, married and killed a new wife each day. By the time he came to marry Shaherzad, over 1,000 women had met their deaths. In an effort to avoid their fate, Shaherzad, the daughter of his vizier, began to tell him a fascinating story every night, promising to finish it on the following night. The sultan enjoyed the stories so much that he kept putting off her execution. After 1,001 stories, she told him she had no more to tell, but by then he had fallen in love with her and made her his Queen. Label scan courtesy of collector John Anderson of the U.S.A.

Thanks for updated info to Amir Mansour of Iran, who writes: "This label belongs to the 1950s [not the 1920s, as previously identified]. Shaherzad, Musical Record and Royal were three local Iranian labels [which replaced] HMV, Columbia and Odeon, who made their last recordings in Tehran in 1947 and then sold their recording machinery to their local agents; the aforementioned labels, born in 1948, continued to produce records in the 78 rpm format for about 10 years." (Mr. Mansour has kindly provided a link to an article authored by him on early Persian labels, which includes other design variations of the Shaherzad label. He writes: "[Though the script is written in Farsi,] you can see there some examples of local Persian labels, including Shaherzad, Musical Record and Royal. Three variations of the Shaherzad labels are shown: the one to the left is the oldest (c. 1948/9); the one in the center (circa 1950/1) has some little differences in the logo, while the one to the right is the standard design of the Shaherzad label from then on. The artwork is similar to that seen in Persian miniatures, though changes are made in the background color, from dark blue to red, beige, sky blue, orange and light green. Other records are also shown, with variations in background color.")

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